Look what we found as we drove past a clearing at the side of the road a km from the border. (Micro Management, Lion Rampant and Rust & Dust having a road side nap – We had a much comfier night’s sleep)
Yet another border crossing and more searches as we went into Turkmenistan from Iran. This crossing was slightly different to others previously crossed, as we had been warned by our Iranian guide that there would be a vigorous search, and to be wary of corrupt officials. This meant we went through passport control, the personal and car searches which also involved mimes asking whether we were carrying guns, narcotics or bombs, etc. with concealed dollars and currency in our crotch’s. Thankfully the searches were not that in depth. We got through with no problems, albeit a few hundred dollars poorer for additional visa costs and taxes.
Post border we just had a short 40km drive to Ashgabat and immediately we felt a surge in temperature, everything was just HOT, the air, the beaming sun all the surfaces including the steering wheel. We knew then, the challenges were only beginning.
We entered Ashgabat expecting a Soviet desolate city similar to the kind of thing we had seen in Iran. We were wrong! Ashgabat is an oasis in the desert immaculately cleaned, perfect tarmac and pristine white buildings everywhere. There’s also a huge amount of green foliage and gold statutes of ‘famous’ Turkmen.
The divide in wealth of a nation – The contrast of lifestyle from Iran, to the city of Ashgabat (left)in Turkmenistan and the rest of Turkmenistan (right) was unexpected
Having eventually found a hotel (we treated ourselves to a bit of luxury in Ashgabat) we headed out to find some other teams and have some refreshing 50p beers. This inevitably ended up in a bizarre club in the basement of our hotel. Will made friends with some locals who were asking some very pressing questions, he’s pretty sure they were secret police as the basically locked him in a bar while they spoke to him, other ralliers had similar stories from around the city that day, it felt like a very ‘controlled’ city which could explain the lack of actual people we saw in the city itself. Eventually from our various locations we all made it to bed in the right room in the right hotel.
We had a 10 hour drive and covered only 120 miles one day and all we have for now is a very shaken Lexi, whiplash and dread about the underlying damage to the car. Two other Ralliers have been victim to this road, that we know of, one the axel had been knocked off and a wheel fallen off (Micro Management, pictured below), luckily they weren’t driving too fast! An others teams shock absorbers were leaking fluids (complicated modern card for yous (Team Unlikely, two Aussies). Our sump guard most definitely has paid for itself, above the picture of the damage.
Happiest border guards at the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan crossing, maybe because we turned up at the end of the day and they all wanted to go home. They kept on saying names of Bollywood actors to Ash like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabatchin, which was followed up by something said about Ash’s beard and the guards taking photos with them. Obviously we weren’t also allowed to take photos as it was considered illegal…
The burning pit that is the Door to Hell
The Door to Hell, was an accidental creation in the 1970’s, the Soviets were drilling for natural gases near the Derweze village in the middle of the Karakum Desert. Following an incident when the ground collapsed beneath the drilling area and large quantities of methane gas being released, that could possibly endanger the lives of the local villages. They thought it would be safer to light it on fire expecting it to burn out in a few weeks, but 40 years later it is still burning.
We parked the cars around 5km from the crater as we didn’t want to get the car stuck in the sand dunes, but in our infinite wisdom we forgot the Chance UK banner, so we decided to be a little creative with a camera.
Petrol, Unleaded, benzine, A1-95 it has many names, but where to find it in Uzbekistan?
For our inconvenience the Uzbekistan government decided that they didn’t want to sell petrol at petrol stations…make sense right? It’s been a hard to come by when on the road in their country. Since the country produce gas (methane) that is the common fuel for the cars and is what the gvernement wants everyone to use. Which didn’t bode well for us. We had visited over half a dozen petrol stations that said benzine or 95 on the signs, but these were either closed or were dry. This led to some black market dealings and following a random man down a few back alleys to a shed. he asked us how much we wanted and then went to a little shed and filled a couple of empty 10 litre water bottles with petrol for us. Enough to take us another 600 km through nothingness.
A few more picture snippets and stories